Monday, August 28, 2006

Media's Embarrassing Treatment of Ramsey Case Reaches Its Apex

There should be a lot of very red faces in newsrooms all over the United States right about now -- there should be, but I doubt there will be.

As many legal experts had theorized might happen, Boulder, Colorado prosecutors today dropped their case against John Mark Karr in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey. It appears that a DNA sample taken from Karr simply does not match DNA from JonBenet Ramsey's body, making it likely that Karr was just an attention-seeker trying to get a quick 15 minutes of fame and dupe a scandal-hungry media into playing along.

Mission accomplished.

It remains unclear whether Karr will be released or extradited to California to face child pornography charges there.

Samples of Karr's DNA had been taken upon his arrival in Boulder on Thursday and they were tested at the Denver Police Department's crime lab over the weekend. Despite his insistence that he killed Ramsey -- and the 10-day media frenzy that has followed -- the tests have failed to put him at the scene of the crime and he may be released entirely by the end of the week.

What is amazing to me is the media circus that has followed this "case" for almost two weeks now without really a shred of proof that anything had truly developed in the 10-year-old mystery. And we're not just talking about an informational mention on page six or seven of the local newspaper, or a 90-second story buried in the second half of a one-hour newscast.

We're talking about hour upon hour of coverage, with some cable news networks devoting the entire hour of a 60-minute newscast to a developing story that could very well have turned out to be a lot of noise about nothing. We're talking about alleged journalists and editors whose judgment made them decide that John Mark Karr's plane ride from Thailand to the United States, where he sat, who he talked to, what he ate and even what procedure was used to allow him to use the bathroom was their very top story.

All of this without the most basic elements of proof that freshman journalism students taking Reporting 100 are taught to look for.


And this giant waste of time and resources, occurred at the expense of real news affecting real lives: A major crisis in the Middle East, a civil war in Iraq that's killing an average of 100 Iraqis a day and with our troops stuck smack-dab in the middle of it. We have a major portion of our population without the means to get a simple medical check-up because they have no health insurance, more Americans in poverty, a devastating budget deficit and hurricane season upon us with FEMA in no better shape than it was a year ago when it bungled Hurricane Katrina.

Oh, and those people whose lives were sidelined by Katrina a year ago, tomorrow? Most of them still haven't received any help.

But none of that -- not one bit of it -- was more important to the corporate media over the last 10 days than a specious confession, to a murder long ago and with very little in the way of proof to go along with it.

We should read, see and hear some major mea culpas across every spectrum of the American media for wasting everyone's time over the last two weeks and, if there's a price to pay for total journalistic incompetence, more than a few editors should be fired. That should happen -- but it won't.

The best we can hope for is that the media will take a good, long, collective look in the mirror and hopefully feel some shame over what buffoons they have been over this non-story and how much they have let the American people down.

I'm sure a few will feel that guilt -- at least until the next blonde chick goes missing in the Caribbean.